The Washington Post
By Wesley Morgan
Published: November 13, 2015
No one heard Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins yell a warning as he wrestled the young insurgent to the ground by a reed-choked canal - not "suicide bomber," not "S-vest," not anything else. His unit had never encountered one before.
Soldiers kneel during a memorial ceremony held June 7, 2007, at Camp Striker, Iraq, as they pay their respects to Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins, who was killed June 1, 2007 by a suicide bomber near Sadr Al-Yusufiyah, Iraq.In the minutes after the two grappling men hit the ground and an explosion engulfed them, soldiers watching from a nearby Humvee weren't sure what had happened, even after a second bomber charged them and blew himself up. Had Atkins and his opponent fallen on a buried roadside bomb?
CHRIS MCCANN/U.S. ARMY
But after battalion commander Lt. Col. John Valledor pieced together the evidence at the scene with the survivors' statements, he felt sure of what Atkins had done: spotting the same type of suicide vest on the first bomber that the other soldiers saw moments later on the second, Valledor reasoned, Atkins had been trying to get the man as far away from his soldiers as possible. He'd saved their lives at the cost of his own.
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